Damages review – 5×04: ‘I Love You, Mommy’

Courtesy of DirecTV

This week Damages is all about exploring the linkages between Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) and Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne). Or, more specifically, the ways in which Patty fears that Ellen is simply a younger version of her.

Let’s bitch it out…One of the major strengths and appeals of Damages has long been the battle for the soul of Ellen Parsons. It’s one of the reasons that it featured prominently in the first episode of this final season and why it’s so alarming to think that Patty may actually win the epic struggle she and Ellen are locked in. The last few episodes have really begun to play up the way that the two women are alike (as though we’ve ever had any doubts; each season Ellen becomes increasingly more like her former mentor before drawing back right at the point of no return). TVAngie has already picked up on this in her reviews when she observed that at the end of 5×03 ‘Failure is Failure both Patty and Ellen recline with a tumbler of bourbon.

‘I Love You, Mommy’ takes this one step further by revisiting the dream sequence Patty had last week at its start and close. However, instead of ending with Patty screaming obscenities at her granddaughter, Catherine (Brooke Liddell) / Ellen, this time Ellen has the final word: she delivers the titular line (in Catherine’s voice). In this way, not only is Patty associating Ellen as her “child” (or perhaps ward is better term considering even Catherine isn’t truly hers), but she’s strategically positioned in Patty’s chair. The symbolism, as TVAngie noted, isn’t difficult to read: Patty is both protective of her surrogate child, but also feels that she is attempting to usurp her place of power, a throne symbolizing her professional achievements.

But even that is built upon as, for the first time since the fifth season premiere, we return to the events of the first season when Patty hired an assassin to kill Ellen. I’m sure we’re meant to associate the image of Ellen struggling against her assailant with suggested demise in the flashforwards and assume that Patty will “kill” Ellen again. I actually think it’s less fatalistic than that. I think the show is actually referring to Patty’s decision to professionally assassinate her former protege. The fact that this dream sequence comes at the end of an episode that features Patty getting away with slander on national television and acquiring potentially damaging Princefield documents from Samurai 7 (Bill Camp) makes me wonder if her dreams are really about her conflicted feelings. She’s provoked Ellen into taking a case that – should Ellen lose – will forever ruin her career and her subconscious won’t let her rest easy with that decision.

Oh yes, they’re deep, these dreams of Patty Hewes!

Other Observations:

  • Another linkage: When Samurai 7 gets greedy and tries to sell the Princefield documents to both women, they park their cars in the exact same position and both bring an associate. Even the blocking is suggestive: these women are exactly the same!
  • I’m sure TVAngie will be frustrated at the obviousness of Samurai 7’s death. Moments before he’s due to leave the house, his high-as-a-kite girlfriend asks if he’ll be okay (translation: obviously no). At the same time we learn that Ellen does not have the capital to afford the $500,000 fee Samurai 7 is charging, so naturally she gets screwed over with nothing to show for it. I would complain that it was all so obvious that the whole data drop-off sequence is rendered ineffectual, but the creeping score and anticipation that something will go wrong still work for me. Obvious: yes. But still effective.
  • Anyone else shake their head when the accountant goes over Ellen’s expenses? She’s paying for her deadbeat sister’s mortgage, pre-school for her niece and now an apartment for her mother, Denise (Debra Monk). At this point I’m starting to wonder if Ellen kills herself in the finale for the insurance money.
  • We learn that Denise has left Ellen’s father because he threw a glass bunny at her and she felt afraid. Now I would never make light of domestic abuse, but in these integral final episodes, does anyone care about Ellen’s mom? This has all the signs of being an inconsequential plotline in what should be a sprint to the finish. Tie it into the main storyline, Damages, or cut it loose!
  • I’m not sure I understand where this subplot with the shady unnamed shady financier (William Sadler) is going? Why does he always meet with Rutger Simon (John Hannah) in limos, and why always at night? What’s going on here? Why doesn’t this man have a name? And what is that accent supposed to be?
  • Patty’s freeze-out of Bill (Judd Hirsch) continues: Bill’s the last to know that she’s hired Jake Stahl (character actor Tim Guinee, who is amazing on The Good Wife and AV Club confirms was on Damages last season). Embarassing. Almost as embarassing as causing a scene by laughing at a man when he proposes a weekend get-away, as she does to Roger Kastle (Michael Gaston) in a crowded restaurant. Oh she’s such a b*tch
  • How much of a factor is Michael (Zachary Booth)? That interview with American Lawyer is damaging enough for Patty to get a warning that her peers worry the McClaren case is nothing more than a petty excuse to take down Ellen (correct!), but thus far he’s proven pretty incapable of posing a serious threat. At this point it seems more likely that he’ll mess with Ellen than his mother.
  • Finally, we get more Gitta (Gillian Alexy). Yay? I get that she’s supposed to be smart, but she comes out pretty naive and a little bit bimbo-y. If we’re meant to take her seriously, they’ll need to take the training wheels off. I stamp her as a “casualty” and think she’ll be dead before the end of the season.

Best Lines:

  • Patty (to the SEC): “Your job is to issue parking tickets”
  • Ellen (elaborating on her distrust of Ryan Phillippe’s McClaren): “It’s not personal. I’m a lawyer and I can’t afford to trust anybody, least of all my clients.” Ironically Patty will tell Jake nearly the same thing only moments later

So we’re nearly half-way done this final season. At this point, it’s clearly Patty for the win as she’s once again scooped Ellen (this time with the gag order and the Princefield documents). So…who killed Samurai 7? What information will Patty find on the Princefield drive? How many more times can McClaren lie before Ellen wrings his neck? And what accent do you think the financier has? Sound off below and check back next week for TVAngie’s return.

Damages airs Wednesdays at 9:00pm EST on DirecTV’s Audience Network and on Netflix in Canada.

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

One thought on “Damages review – 5×04: ‘I Love You, Mommy’

  1. Glad to see another website covering this season, very hard to find recaps on Damages since its move from FX!

    I believe the financiers accent is German but I am by no means a linguist. I will agree with you that the hackers death was extremely obvious and it served him right for being a greedy prick. As an accountant, I really wish more clients would listen to our advice. BAD MOVE ELLEN!

    Glad I stumbled across this website, what an awesome domain name!